Monday, December 28, 2009
Book: George Orwell - 1984 (1949)
It is one of the best known books ever written. So many concepts expressed in this book have been copied and used that the very book itself and its title have become symbols. Whenever governments get too powerful or seem to meddle with psychological manipulation, there is someone who stands up and waves a copy of 1984 in their faces. It is the scariest book I have ever read.
The novel is filled with episodes that give you an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. The Two Minutes Hate is a classic one. Other scenes are more dramatic, such as the vision of the pyramids of the Ministries of Truth, Love, Peace and Plenty that tower over the rest of the city. There are scenes that are a bit comical as well, such as the mandatory morning exercise and Winston’s job as a modifier of documents to change records of the past, but never funny. Instead these scenes have a terrible sadness in them.
Orwell systematically blocks all hope for the reader that the world will ever get better. The fascist state Winston Smith lives in will stay that way forever and the rest of the world is no different. The world exists in a balance that is maintained by three states, which keeps it forever turning. It is a nightmare without end; the future forever ruined. Even the past is lost to memory and destroyed by lies. It makes you want to bury your face in your hands and hide far away. To quote one of Orwell's characters: "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."
In 1948, when the book was written, totalitarianism was a real fear. Nowadays it is a bit dated in its prophetic power, but it is a story that will never get old. It is immensely powerful and alarming and as a call to freedom it will always remain relevant. Highly Recommended.